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China mulls end to two-term limit for president

February 25, 2018

The ruling Communist Party of China has called for the removal of two-term limits for the office of president. Such a move could pave the way for current leader Xi Jinping to remain as head of state after 2023.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China
Image: Imago/Xinhua/Xie Huanchi

The Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee has proposed deleting the stipulation that "a president shall serve no more than two consecutive terms" from the constitution, the official Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.

Such a move would make it possible for current President Xi Jinping — who is also party chief — to remain in power after 2023 when he would have to stand down under the current system.

The 64-year-old Xi, considered to be China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, has been president since 2013. He began his second five-year term in October.

Read more: 'The Chinese Dream' and Xi Jinping's power politics

The announcement, carried by Xinhua, gave few details. The proposal would also cover the vice president position.

Any constitutional reform must be approved by China's parliament. That assembly is filled with members who were chosen for party loyalty, meaning the reform is unlikely to be blocked.

Read more: In Xi we trust - Is China cracking down on Christianity?

A separate Xinhua report said the Central Committee also proposed inserting "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" into the constitution. Xi's guiding political thought is already enshrined in the arguably more important Communist Party constitution.

While China's previous three presidents have brought through their potential successors in advance, to allow for a smoother transition to power, Xi is seen as having not promoted anyone young and with a suitable enough background to replace him.

Xi has waged a battle against corruption that has seen more than a million people punished. However, the campaign is seen by some as a way of eradicating internal opposition.

The presidency has been hallmarked by the return of a personality cult. Earlier this year, the party mouthpiece People's Daily newspaper further solidified Xi's elevation when it published a piece referring to the president as "lingxiu" — a highly reverential Mao-era honorific title. 

The People's Congress, which would make the changes, begins in Beijing on March 5. 

rc/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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